Words aren’t cheap, but apples are

appleFull disclosure–on occasion I’m a substitute teacher, which means I get to see the kids at their worst. I’m a parent, so I get to see them at their best, except for my own–they are always their best at some other kid’s house. This also means that I get to hear what teachers say to us as parents, and what they say one teacher to another. Another disclosure–my sister is a totally kick-ass teacher. If she taught at my son’s school, he’d probably get up in the morning without whining quite so much.

I have lots of opinions about both sides of the equation, as a parent and a teacher, but I only want to talk about one issue today.

I’ve had to execute a lock-down drill as a substitute more than once. Lock the doors, turn off the lights, shut the blinds, and cover the classroom windows while calmly ushering kids into a sheltered location. Keep them quiet until the all clear. It’s very different from a fire drill, which I’ve also done before. Those drills rev the kids up. The classroom is disrupted, they get outside, see their friends, talk to each other while they wait. They come back squirrely. After a lockdown drill, the mood is somber and eerie. It’s different, and everyone knows it.

When I’m teaching, I’m the buffer between the outside world and those kids. Your kids. Like the teachers in Newtown.

Think about it. What would you be willing to sacrifice? When every cell is telling you to run, you have 35 other people that you have to put first.  Before you can get to your own child, you have to deliver all of those children to their parents first. When we have those drills, the responsibility comes home to me.

So when I hear people complain about how teachers don’t have to work that hard, that they get paid too much, they have a guaranteed job, they only teach to the test, and so on, as a parent, I get it. I’ve done my share of complaining, although more about the testing culture than the teachers themselves. There is a difference. The greater part of me however, thinks “this is the person I’m trusting with my child.”

As awful as the kids can be, and trust me, they can be pretty awful, and as tired and cynical as the teachers can get, and like all of us, they do, I know that my son’s teachers would step up when called to do so. For all of the complaints I hear about teachers, there is one I can categorically deny. They do care. They care about our kids. Enough to confront a gunman, to hide the kids in cabinets and lie to keep them safe, to read them stories and kiss their foreheads and tell them it will all be okay when they aren’t sure that it will.

And for that, we cannot pay them enough.

Thank a teacher today. If you feel you have to give them an apple, make it a Honeycrisp. They are delicious.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by fotografeleen © 2012 Creative Commons